Twisting Italian villages — red rooftops, azure skies and dusty balconies — are the architecture upon which summer fantasies are built. Merely gazing at glossy photographs in books of northern Italy is enough to engender a piercing desire to book a plane ticket, quit your job and fail your classes in favor of the golden hills guaranteed to welcome you as a guest. However, while photos can inspire desire, paintings allow the viewer to participate in a discussion with the scene and the painter’s own reaction to it. Gazing at a painting allows the viewer to see through someone else’s eyes, a more organic way of becoming ensconced in a place the way the painter did — the way the smells of freshly baked bread tickled the artist’s nose or how the golden sunshine shrouded her shoulders and soothed her soul.

This naturalistic way of viewing a place is the focus of the exhibition currently displayed in the Goldman-Schwartz Fine Arts Studios, entitled “New Work from Home and Abroad.” The exhibition displays the varied work created over the summer by Brandeis students — the majority of which was made on the summer program Brandeis in Siena, a five-week art program at the Siena Art Institute in Tuscany.

Returning to school after a summer away is always a treat. Now equipped with stories of adventures from near and far, returning Brandeisians who visit the exhibit excitedly consume the tales of their peers over Einstein’s and the random free food — hopefully, cookies — constantly being given away across campus. While some only speak of their travels, others present artwork, giving their friends and the University’s faculty a chance to explore these places in a way so much more potent than, “I went to Italy this summer, it was so cool!” The paintings in the exhibit, however, do much more than answer a question — they allow for the viewer to participate in their own experience with Siena and its many winding passages.

While perusing the works from the exhibition, rather than having to ask questions — “What did you see?” “What was the weather like?” “Did you like this or that?” — you can respond personally to how each person reflected on his or her own emotions and experiences while viewing a work in a museum or taking in the gnarled streets of Siena, Italy. For example, rather than simply seeing a photograph of a painting from a museum, in this exhibit, we can see how Eli Levy ’18 interpreted the painting from the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Siena, and his experience of the painting and moment as a whole. This allows the viewer to react to not only the image but also the emotional intent behind it and create their own response to the place, the feelings of the artist and their visual product — a story all on its own, a much deeper connection than “I went to Italy; it was fun.”

Similarly, Tova Weinberger ’18 — one of the most prolific artists in the display — produced a number of cityscapes of Siena. Her works articulated the clouded sky and crowded buildings with an indulgent use of color and line, adding to the mystical, almost whimsical, feel of the city. Conversely, Orli Swergold’s ’18 work was more austere in its color, focusing on the structures of the buildings, creating a more narrative view. Her distinct shapes and dark mountains depicted a more domineering view of Siena — a stately city, complete with proud buildings and lush trees. Both artists expressed their own ideas on the same city — creating two different experiences, something that could not be cast as well in photograph. Another standout artist in the exhibit, Sarah Chung ’18, employed a style of scraping away paint to create various skeletons throughout many of her pieces — a style both unexpected and surprisingly apt in expressing the bare bones.

The exhibit as a whole succeeded in creating an interactive experience of the tales of summer that all students crave in the weeks following break. The artists in the exhibition all answered the question “What did you do this summer?” with a question for the inquirer: “I did this; this is how I felt; how does this experience affect you?” Overall, the varied works allowed for an uncut view of Siena as well as views of summers closer to home, like of bedroom still lives and piercing profiles. Painting is an introspective game, one that questions the artist and viewer alike, a task that was achieved gracefully in the “New Work from Home and Abroad” exhibit. By recreating a small summer adventure, the artists generated a welcome reprieve from the rapidly encroaching cold weather.